Steve Biko was a leader of the Black Consciousness movement, which developed as a way to teach blacks specifically, that they had to be confident and strong as a race before they would be able to counter the white racism ruling the country. Biko was a charismatic leader and intellectual. He believed that the anger of black youths could be transformed into meaningful opposition, if they acknowledged its strength. He was not afraid to express radical ideas that threatened the security of the white supremacist leaders of South Africa. While studying medicine at Natal University in South Africa he wrote: "Black Consciousness seeks to channel the angry black masses to meaningful and directional opposition . . . But the type of black man we have today . . . looks with awe at the white power structure and accepts what he regards as the "inevitable position" . . . The black man has become a shadow . . . a slave and ox bearing the yoke of oppression with sheepish timidity."
However, his role as a compelling Black Consciousness leader ended in 1977, when he was arrested and tortured by South African police. He died while in police custody on September 12th. It is believed that he was brutally beaten while in custody, having his head bashed while in interrogation in a police station in Durban. This resulted in severe brain hemorrhaging. The police then decided to transfer him to a police station in Johannesburg, two hundred miles away. Supposedly a white doctor pronounced him fit for the journey. His naked body was loaded into the back of a van in the middle of the freezing night, and he died en route.
Biko's senseless death made a huge impact on South African blacks, and people internationally. Many died in the same way that Biko did, but his story achieved widespread attention, and tipped the scales of world opinion in favour of black South Africans. Biko was never found guilty of any crime, never arrested for inciting violence, and he was never accused of it.